Actors: Michael Landon, Russ Tamblyn, Jackie Coogan
Director: Jack Arnold
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Olive Films
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Run Time: 85 minutes
This anti-drug juvenile delinquency film may not be as widely known as Reefer Madness (1936), but it may be worse in its attempt to be hip in its message. High School Confidential (1958) stars Russ Tamblyn three years before West Side Story, and is apparently based on the undercover police work done by Texas Joe Foster. Just like the main character is a cop pretending to be the school’s coolest new kid, the film quickly begins to feel like an imitator. Clearly a propaganda film meant to appeal to younger audience because of the current slang utilized in the dialogue, High School Confidential now stands as an embarrassingly hilarious reminder of the past.
Tamblyn stars as Tony Baker, the new kid in school who isn’t afraid to do or say whatever he wants. He flaunts his attitude at all authority figures, meanwhile seeking out ways of getting into the drug dealing business. Finding marijuana is easy for him to spot, because the students who haven’t had a ‘fix’ in awhile have withdrawal symptoms. There are plenty of inaccurate facts about marijuana within the narrative, though the undercover cop is actually seeking out the major heroin dealers in the area. Apparently, it’s impossible not to eventually start using heroin once you start smoking marijuana.
Bad anti-drug propaganda aside, there is actually a lot of quality filmmaking in High School Confidential. It is far from being Rebel Without a Cause, but there are some exciting sequences and fun performances. The film is also filled with theme music from Jerry Lee Lewis, in another desperate effort to obtain the interest of a younger audience. The Blu-ray release presents the film in surprising clarity, for all the campiness to be fully appreciated.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10
Historical Significance: 7.5/10